Ken Yazel rebuts Cheryl Clay claims

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Republican Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel has published on his website a detailed response to an attack mailer from his primary opponent, former County Assessor Cheryl Clay. Yazel says that Clay's statements are lies, and he rebuts each point at length.

Some of the points made by Yazel in his rebuttal:

  • "There are 7 other county offices that have higher salaries [than the Assessor's Office], and that doesn't include the 'one-time longevity payments' (a.k.a. tax-funded Christmas Bonuses), which amounted to about $785,000 for 909 County employees. None of these were paid to employees within the Assessor's Office. "
  • The number of Assessor's Office employees is 16% less than when he took office, but managing a workload that has grown by 12%. 83 of his 84 employees are Certified Appraisers.
  • The Assessor's Office has an attorney on staff that specializes in Ad Valorem tax disputes, as allowed by law. Cheryl Clay also had an attorney on staff, as did Jack Gordon, her handpicked successor.
  • An outside law firm was used seven years ago, before an attorney was added to the Assessor's Office staff, to defend and win a multi-million dollar valuation case, the "first time in almost a decade a case had been won for the taxpayers."
  • The Assessor's Office software system is the same system in use in Oklahoma County [and the Oklahoma County Assessor, Leonard Sullivan, has an awesome website -- MDB], is fully backed up and compatible with county systems. "The only problem for county data was created by the County Clerk when her office ceased to place parcel numbers on recorded documents, contrary to state law. (This has been an ongoing issue in excess of 18 months now, and is finally being fixed at a heavy expense to the County Clerk's budget.)"
  • "[Yazel] has persuaded the Budget Board, by vote of 8-0, to pass much needed budget reforms. Most recently, the Board passed an action to place Assessor data on the Internet for all to use without paying the previous required monthly fee to the county.

I'm very pleased to read that last point. Oklahoma County has been well ahead of Tulsa County in making public data truly accessible to the public. Ken Yazel understands that "public = online."

You can read the full rebuttal after the jump. I'm proud to endorse Ken Yazel for reelection as Tulsa County Assessor.

Mud-Slinging vs. Truth:

A Simple Fact Check on Cheryl Clay's Attack Mailers

My opponent has erroneously stated information regarding the Assessor's office. I wanted to give all citizens the opportunity to find the truth regarding these allegations. My campaign will continue to run with honesty, and with the utmost integrity. Remember to vote on Tuesday, July 27th for TRUTH, INTEGRITY, and HONESTY by RE-ELECTING me, Ken Yazel, your Tulsa County Assessor.

When you seek the truth, consider both sides of the story:

CLAY LIE # 1: The County Assessor's Office has the highest average salaries of any county office.

FACT: There are 7 other county offices that have higher salaries, and that doesn't include the "one-time longevity payments" (a.k.a. tax-funded Christmas Bonuses), which amounted to about $785,000 for 909 County employees. None of these were paid to employees within the Assessor's Office.

The Assessor's Office is now more compliant with state law than ever before. We are exuding professionalism, accountability and excellence with citizens by operating with 84 employees. We started with more than 100 employees, and most were not certified appraisers and did not have the training required to assist the taxpayers. Now 83 of our 84 total office staff are Certified Appraisers and are maintaining a workload that has increased by 12%. I will continue my long-term vision of making your Assessor's Office more efficient by utilizing technology, continuing education and a modern management philosophy.

CLAY LIE #2: He wastes money with an $83,000/year staff attorney when state law gives legal responsibility to the DA's office.

FACT: The citizens of Tulsa County deserve to have their legal matters handled by an attorney that specializes in Ad Valorem tax disputes.

This was not possible until we decided to bring in someone who could truly represent the citizen's best interest. This is not a new expense to taxpayers by any means. Previously the defense of lawsuits against the County was paid from either the DA's office or the County Commissioners budget. The DA's office has fine attorneys. However, they do not provide attorneys who are trained in this technical area of expertise. It is of note that the law was changed to allow the Assessor's office to employ a staff attorney. The staff attorney that my opponent speaks of is part of the 84 employees mentioned earlier. All employees wear many hats and perform multiple job functions. This is why citizens receive the highest level of professionalism available. It is also of note that my predecessor and Cheryl Clay both employed an attorney on their staff. We all should take exception to Ms. Clay's opinion that providing professionalism is a waste of money.

CLAY LIE #3: He spends hundreds of thousands more on outside legal representation with big dollar campaign contributors.

FACT: Clay failed to mention that this firm hasn't been used for years.

This instance took place prior to our attorney being added to the Assessor's staff. The normal protocol was followed, but after the DA would decline to handle a case, the law required us to hire outside council. When an outside law firm was used 7 yrs ago for a multi-million dollar valuation case, it was the first time in almost a decade a case had been won for the taxpayers. The contributions mentioned by Ms. Clay was made AFTER the law firm was retained, and was in the amounts of $500. This donation did not come from the firm itself, but from 2 partners of this firm. These men have a legal right to contribute to any campaign of their choosing, and I am delighted that they believe in me enough to support my campaign.

CLAY LIE #4: He hired a Colorado firm to install completely new computer software at a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of thousands of dollars that doesn't even allow the county's MIS department to restore in the event of a crash. Yazel's folly needed hundreds of software patches to make it compatible with other county departments.

FACT: The Assessor's software has always been compatible with other county departments, and is now the same system that several other counties (including Oklahoma County) are currently using. Unfortunately, the approved software was only available in Colorado.

The system is fully backed up and does not affect the county mainframe data. There is nothing that prevents a restore of the county or the assessor's data. The only problem for county data was created by the County Clerk when her office ceased to place parcel numbers on recorded documents, contrary to state law. (This has been an ongoing issue in excess of 18 months now, and is finally being fixed at a heavy expense to the County Clerk's budget.) Patches were required by the purchase of new software by the County Clerk's Office when the common link "parcel numbers' was ceased by her office. The Assessor's office continues to work hard and offer any assistance to other county offices that are not in compliance with state laws.

CLAY LIE #5: He (Yazel) seems totally incapable of working together with other elected officials to give taxpayer's the government we deserve. On one occasion, he made such ludicrous false statements that every single other county official felt compelled to issue a joint signed rebuke.

FACT: Commissioner Fred Perry made the false allegation in regard to the use of the word 'illegal' on a draft document by a staff worker.

This word was removed appropriately as part of the preparation of the final document prior to issue. Perry used this draft mistake as an opportunity to convince other elected Officials to join him in a signed document. The Assessors Office is very diligent in offering a reputable, law abiding assessment service to the people of Tulsa County. The Sheriff is a current endorser of Assessor Yazel's campaign, as are other elected officials. Mr. Yazel continues to work with other board members and elected officials. He has persuaded the Budget Board, by vote of 8-0, to pass much needed budget reforms. Most recently, the Board passed an action to place Assessor data on the Internet for all to use without paying the previous required monthly fee to the county.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 27, 2010 1:36 AM.

KOTV finds Dahm claims on Sullivan record "misleading" was the previous entry in this blog.

Cool! Tulsa County property search online is the next entry in this blog.

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